PERTH, Australia — A 74-year-old man with terminal cancer said on Thursday he could die happy after reaching a $727,000 landmark settlement against a Catholic religious order for sexual abuse he suffered in Australia more than 50 years ago.
Paul Bradshaw was to testify on Thursday in the Western Australia state District Court about his ill treatment at Castledare Junior Orphanage and Clontarf Orphanage run by the Irish Christian Brothers order in the 1950s and ’60s.
But instead, a settlement was reached with the Trustees of the Christian Brothers for the abuse he suffered at the hands of Brothers Lawrence Murphy, Bruno Doyle and Christopher Angus, who are all dead.
Bradshaw is the first victim to claim damages for historical child sex abuse under laws that recently came into effect in Western Australia, removing the time limit for such cases.
He cried outside court, explaining his 60-year fight and said he was relieved his family would receive his compensation money. He said doctors had advised that he only had six months to live.
“I lived on the street most of my life and I don’t want them to go through the same thing I went through,” he told reporters. “I’m just hoping now that this has been settled and I can get on with my last six months in peace.”
“I will die happy now knowing that I can care for my family,” he added.
The Catholic Church, Australia’s largest denomination, in May became the first non-government institution to commit to a $2.9 billion national redress plan for victims of child sex abuse in Australian institutions over decades.
The Catholic Church estimates it alone will be liable for about $750 million in compensation.
Former Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson was this week sentenced to 1 year in home detention after becoming the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.
Pope Francis’s former finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, faces trial on sexual assault charges in Australia. The exact details and nature of the charges have not been disclosed to the public, though police have described them as “historical” sexual assaults, meaning they are alleged to have occurred decades ago.
The national redress plan was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which made its final report in December.
Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — had been investigating since 2012 how institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years. The inquiry heard the testimonies of more than 8,000 survivors of child sex abuse. Of those who were abused in religious institution, 62 percent were Catholics.
Bradshaw said his case was never about money.
“I just wanted the apology of the Christian Brothers and I would have been happy with that,” he said.
His lawyer Michael Magazanik told reporters it was a landmark case in Western Australia.
“If it weren’t for recent changes in WA law, none of this was possible,” Magazanik said. “Now WA law is the fairest and certainly the most progressive for survivors like Paul.”
Magazanik said the orphanages housed the most vulnerable children who had no families to go home to, nobody to complain to and nobody outside the orphanages to protect them.
“They were utterly vulnerable and the orphanages were a magnet for the very worst of the brothers, the violent pedophiles,” Magazanik said.
Magazanik said 10 years before Murphy abused Bradshaw, he was reported for child sex abuse but nothing was done about it.
Twice as a child, Bradshaw reported his abuse and both times he was dismissed.
When he left Clontarf, Bradshaw told a judge his allegations but was labelled a liar and admitted to a psychiatric hospital, Magazanik said.
In the 1990s, Bradshaw also participated in the criminal prosecution of Murphy, but prosecutors eventually dropped the case and he died without facing justice.